So, Dan from RVI has arrived to replace me at the South Sudan National Archives for the next nine weeks. And I’ve spent this week “handing over”.
Monthly Archives: April 2013
- Ever since the very worrying announcement of Machar’s (constitutionally, legally) curtailed powers last week, there have been dozens of SPLA, heavily armed, stationed at each roundabout in the centre of Juba, and posted along the roads to the airport. Ominous or precautionary? Taxi drivers are advising staying in after 10pm, and I am.
- I am wrapping up my work with the Rift Valley Institute, and at the South Sudan National Archives, this coming Friday. I panicked, at 2am last night, that I hadn’t arranged for the handover of the RVI office in Wau; then I remembered, RVI in South Sudan is just me at the moment, and I don’t have an office in Wau.
I watched three football matches in three days: the first games of the South Sudan national cup. That’s officially more football than I’ve seen in months.
Aweil is very beautiful, in a completely different way. I really like Central Equatoria, particularly now the rains have started in earnest and everything is bright, fluorescent green, but northern Bahr el Ghazal has something otherworldly about it.
I thought I had typhoid! But it was just three different types of un-fun bacteria. Gone now.
Juba politics is inscrutable at the best of times; the cabal around Kiir, the definite occasional torture and daily harassment of journalists and nosy people, and the general militarisation of the town over the last two years is notable and really forestalls any real understanding of inner politics when you’re not at the forefront of an embassy – or even then.
That’s not to say it’s impossible or unsafe to live here. I’ve arrived back in Juba after five days in Aweil (more later) and there are no signs of an impending coup as far as I can see, and frankly the airport is a good first place to look for that kind of thing. Everyone is drinking their beers at 4pm like usual.
But the key thing is, my last post is redundant; now that Kiir has stripped Machar’s powers back to the constitutional limits for a vice-president, he has also cancelled the ‘reconciliation’ conference. So that’s one fewer trips to Juba for me, when I leave for Aweil in five weeks.
The Sudan Council of Churches, Riek Machar and ‘a journey of national healing’: thoughts on peace and reconciliation in South Sudan
Peace, national healing and reconciliation have been discussed as fundamentally necessary agenda items for South Sudan since independence nearly two years ago. These ideas are steeped in South African post-apartheid and Rwanda post-genocide legacies, and there is no shortage of people and organisations wanting a piece of this psychological restitution game – or proposing ways (or more often, the problems) of doing it.
The key issue for a while has seemed to be a lack of political will for such a huge and complex project. If anything, government understandings of the war have been going the other way: there is a well established, government propagated single historical narrative. ‘We’ fought together, died together, bound by the same united ideological desire for an independent ‘South’; internal divisions were the product of machinations from the evil North; the war, peace and finally independence were all won by ‘bullet and ballot,’ and nobody voted against independence in 2011.
As I have (repeatedly) noted, I live in a small concrete hut in a dusty suburb of Juba, with no electricity and an outside toilet with a bucket/hose shower. I have no fridge, no air conditioning, no fan, and our washing water is trucked in from the Nile: bugs, weird slimy leaves and all. I work in a shell of a building with no electricity for the fans. Despite the rains starting to dribble every two days or so – have been sweating through four months of dry season, where temperatures have been happily coasting at 40 degrees C in the shade.
So, it’s extremely hard to stay my usual beautiful, graceful self here. Unfortunately, I am entirely used to being glazed in sweat, which picks up a serious amount of blowing dust. My sporadic and extremely unskilled approach to makeup in the UK has not translated well here: things like lipstick or mascara just slide unhappily off my face. My hair has to cope with Nile water, direct sun, constant sweat and serious amounts of dust. Basically, if I am not visibly streaked with sweat and dirt, then I’m feeling pretty glam.
However! I have also developed some key extreme-weather “beauty” tips. (Beauty is in quote marks because these probably constitute basic sanitation and self-care more than Cosmo-level regimens.) So here follows my basic list of key tips for the cash-strapped, time-poor, electricity-deficient, overly-warm expat: